Tips on Writing a Memoir

woman writing

If you think you have an interesting life story to tell, LoveToKnow Freelance Writing is here to offer tips on writing a memoir. Even if you're a novice writer, our advice will help you get your project off to a promising start.

Memoir vs. Autobiography

Before you begin writing a memoir, it's helpful to make sure you understand how this type of book differs from an autobiography.

Typically, a memoir reads more like a novel than an autobiography. While an autobiography often covers a long time period and provides many details, a memoir deals with events related to a specific theme. Examples of topics for memoirs may include recovering from an eating disorder, dealing with an abusive spouse, or what it's like to live with a chronic illness.

Generally speaking, memoirs tend to be much more popular than autobiographies. Although a memoir is true, the events are told in a way that makes it seem like a fictional work. This makes the story much more interesting to the reader, even if the author is someone they have never heard of before.

Brief Tips on Writing a Memoir

As you're working on your project, it may be helpful to keep in mind the following tips on writing a memoir:

  • Write first, edit later. It's tempting to keep revising your work as you go, but this approach will make it very difficult to finish your memoir. Try to get an entire rough draft before you make any major edits.
  • Write in the first person. Although your English teacher may have discouraged this when you were in high school, it's understood that your memoir is about your life. The reader expects you to tell the story from your point of view.
  • Remember that the people reading your work were not there when the events took place. They won't understand any "inside jokes" and you may need to provide a bit of a back-story to illustrate the context of certain events.
  • Don't include unnecessary details. While autobiographies are often written as chronological accounts of a person's life, a memoir only includes events relating to the key theme of the book. This helps keep the story on track and prevents the reader from being bored or overwhelmed by too much information.
  • Keep in mind that what you say will affect other people, especially if your memoir ends up being published. If something is particularly controversial, you may wish to change the person's name in your memoir. As long as you put a disclaimer in the front of your book stating that some names and identifying details have been changed, this is perfectly ethical.
  • If your memoir includes references to pop culture or important events in history, double check these facts for accuracy. Errors, even though if they are fairly minor, undermine your credibility with your reader.

For more advice on how to write a memoir, check out Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. Edited by William Zinsser, this helpful reference includes tips from some of today's most noted memoirists.

Example of Memoir Writing

If you're interested in writing your life history, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with examples of memoir writing. Here are a few titles you may want to add to your reading list:

Tips on Writing a Memoir